HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) — Employment reports detailing the reasons Pennsylvania police officers leave their posts became available to other Commonwealth departments Wednesday.
The move is part of the police accountability law passed by the General Assembly last July in response to the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The aim, supporters said, is to give state and local departments a greater ability to track instances of officer misconduct through a database managed by Pennsylvania State Police. The agency’s regulatory arm had been preparing to launch the system since the law went into effect last summer.
Now, the commonwealth’s roughly 1,300 law enforcement agencies must write an official report each time an officer leaves a department, making particular note of firings for instances including excessive force and sexual abuse. Those documents are shared with other police departments through that same database.
State Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) said the program is designed to keep dangerous officers from being hired again.
“If you’ve done any of that stuff in the past, and you’re still on the force, you might be doing some of that going forward — and if you get caught, you’re gonna show up in that database,” Rabb, the law’s chief sponsor, said Friday. “This should have a chilling effect on those who are still in the system.”
York City Police Chief Michael Muldrow was among those who celebrated the change. He said having access to as many as 35,000 officers’ separation records could help departments weed out those who should not be on the streets.
“We want our bad apples out, too — those individuals who tarnish the image of our chosen profession, tainting the good we try to do,” he said.
Rabb added that the system is not perfect — departments only look at separation records if they are hiring an officer, not to keep abreast of disciplinary measures; those that leave before they are formally disciplined can escape some scrutiny; and the database only holds records for Pennsylvania officers, not those who left a job in another state.
Those rules are temporary. The representative said the regulatory branch of the State Police might address some of those issues in the next year. Deputy State Police Commissioner Christopher Paris said departments must still conduct a “thorough” background check into officers they seek to hire from other states.